Premiership Betting: Spurs head the race in the "winner without Big 4" market
"Knowledgeable" Nik Wardle talks us through the strengths and weaknesses of the different teams in contention on Betfair's "Winner without Big 4" market. Spurs and Everton have all the credentials, apparently.
With the Premier League once again fixing the fixtures list to allow a series of 'Grand Slam Sundays' it points to the ruling body and Sky believing it'll be the same old faces in the Champions League placings next season. Betfair have opened up a 'Winner Without Big 4' category for those who would like to dream of a league without those clubs. Yes, there are still two months to go until the big kick off but with only Tottenham splashing some cash thus far, now is a good time to bet if you believe a club other than them will finish the best of the rest.
Aston Villa ([5.8]) - Much of their league success will depend upon keeping hold of Gareth Barry. Much like when Man United kept upping their bid for Michael Carrick from Tottenham a couple of years ago, Barry will have his price, especially if he makes it clear he wants a move to Liverpool. The squad will need to be supplemented if they wish to better last season. Juventus-bound Mellberg needs replacing and it's still unclear who their first choice keeper will be next year. Villa are likely to be out-spent by a few of their rivals and O'Neill will need all his motivational powers if they are to be the best of the rest.
Blackburn ([15.5]) - Rovers need to sort their manager out first. Paul Ince is the current favourite and would be an interesting choice. Whoever takes over will need to retain Bentley and Santa Cruz if they're to stand any chance of a 5th place finish. Both are likely to want to leave if any realistic offers come in, though.
Everton (5.7) - David Moyes has made England internationals out of Lescott and Jagielka in the last couple of seasons, so it'll be fascinating to see if he has any more gems from unfashionable clubs in his sights. If Tim Cahill can steer clear of injury, they should be an even better team next season, especially with the emergence of Vaughan and Anichebe. I don't expect wholesales changes at Goodison Park and this stability makes them a good bet.
Man City (7.4) - Mark Hughes was a surprise appointment for me as I expected Thaksin Shinawatra to go for a more flamboyant manager. It'll be interesting to see how much money he has available and just how much pull the club have. They are in the running for Ronaldinho but would he really fancy a move there? Reports of them willing to pay around £18 million for Jo, proves their ambition. Hughes is wise enough to know he can't have a whole team of superstars and will need some function alongside the flair. City will spend and if you rate Hughes as a manager, the time to bet is now before the cheques are signed and the odds lower.
Newcastle (9.2) - Things won't be dull with Kevin Keegan at the helm. Last season a disastrous start under him was matched by a promising end - will it be the good, the bad or both for the Geordies next season? Newcastle need to sort their defence out and we all know that wasn't Keegan's forte last time around. But a few big-money buys and their fervent support may swing things around. Attractive odds but only for optimistic Newcastle fans I feel.
Portsmouth (11.5) - Harry is famous for his wheeler-dealing but maybe this summer he should only sign players beginning with 'D' after last season's great purchases of Defoe, Distin and Diarra. To counter them, however, he was less successful with Nugent and Baros (albeit a loan signing). With the latter unlikely to be signed permanently and Kanu more of a bit-part player these days, I feel Pompey need to strengthen up front if they're to improve on last season - they can't just rely on Defoe. With last season's success I think other clubs will be more aware of them and I think they'll do well to finish in the top eight next season.
Tottenham (3.2) - Spurs have shown some of their hand already by paying over £20 million for Modric and Dos Santos and I don't think this is the end of their spending. Even if Berbatov goes, the pull of London and the Premier League means Spurs should have a few more quality players at the club by the start of the season. Lilywhite and blue-tinted Spurs fans will believe their post-Carling Cup success decline was merely due to Ramos standing back and assessing the attitude of his players - the other angle is that he was unable to motivate them. We shall see which over the course of next season.
Tottenham spent big last summer and were favourites for this book then and look what happened. However, I do expect them to challenge strongly for 5th place this time around, especially if they can get a top quality keeper in. Everton's consistency makes them a decent bet and if you trust Mark Hughes to make signings that are a mixture of talent and Premier League know how, they're worth a bet now